Educate has the most wonderful intentions but ultimately fails to deliver. Written and performed by drama students from the University of Hull on “a tight budget and tight time scale”, the piece shows great potential but never really gets going.
Set in a politics class, a group of sixth formers are challenged by a substitute teacher to write her a song. This incredibly basic and bizarre premise just doesn’t allow the young cast to reach any depth in performances or give opportunity for any character development to take place. In the end the piece feels like an improvised mess.
All that said, there is some sharp dialogue, and lovely moments of ensemble playing (with particular credit going to the girls for a hysterical exchange about self-image). The style of music is fairly pleasant, and it’s a great touch to have the entire show’s score performed by one acoustic guitar. Unfortunately (with the exception of the brilliant It’s All You Got number), the actual songs are repetitive and dull. The cast have good voices, but the harmonies regularly clash and jar.
The piece is very competently directed by Joshua Beaumont, and the staging and use of the space is effective. Ultimately the failure of the play is the material. Aiming to be “like Glee but less cheesy” just hasn’t worked. With more workshopping, stripping back the material and improving the plot, this could be a very sweet indie musical, but as it stands now the writing is unimaginative and the whole show runs at just under half-an-hour.
Z Theatre Company are clearly very talented young people, and with more preparation I’m confident they could produce some excellent theatre. As it stands though, Educate is worth avoiding.